Geotic :: Abysma (Ghostly International)

There’s never a dull moment on Abysma, and casting it as “passive listening” does it a bit of a disservice, in fairness. It’s a magical work, and a perfect soundtrack to all those hours spent at home during the transition from frosty spring into the glowing summer months.

One of the refreshing things about Will Wiesenfeld in either his so-called “active listening” output as Baths or the “passive listening” that is Geotic is that, while the labels are technically his own, in either he’s not trying to be clever, he’s just being straightforward, honest. But whereas before his Geotic output was largely ambient in nature, he’s mixing the two up a little here.

It’ll be easy for some to identify with Wiesenfeld’s take on dance music not as a public, party-based activity, but an experience had at home, alone. Sure it’s possible to wholeheartedly enjoy listening to thumping, harsh or industrial for-the-floor techno, house or other dance music at home on the sofa, through speakers or headphones, but at heart it’s really designed for the club.

Geotic is music to fill the home, the apartment, the flat… like an item of decor to complete the environment one carefully curates for oneself, you’re drawn to it for very specific reasons and can spend hours looking at it. But it’s equally at home fading into the background. Not ignored, just there defining your own space.

Does Abysma do this? Kind of, and it manages to do so without ever coming off as earnest. There’s a sense of humor running through the album that belies the name Abysma. Is he singing “YOLO” over and over again on “Laura Corporeal?” What the hell is going on in the delightfully silly video created for “Actually Smiling?” Pieces like these or the slightly overshadowed “Vaulted Ceiling, Painted Sky” quite happily drift in the background, rewarding the odd close inspection thanks to moments where soaring strings or vocal anomalies break through.

Wiesenfeld has crafted the melodically beautiful and dance-able tracks like “Billionth Raiment,” and then counterpointed with the use of charmingly domestic piano melodies and oddly wistful vocals that attract attention not because of what’s he’s singing, but rather the funny/peculiar, kitten-mewling way he sings them.

“Perish Song” is another example, and one of the finest pieces here, with airy, sweeping pads, ruminative falsetto vocals, Helios-like piano and an overall air of melancholy. It’s the track that most recalls the curious artwork that adorns the LP cover, a tear-jerker, or a coda to a movie soundtrack.

Abysma also has its fair share of attention grabbing instrumentals, and the opening track is not only breathily poppy, it’s also exquisitely produced. Interestingly, John Tejada is responsible for the mastering of Abysma, and is in many ways the perfect choice for this glowing, bouncy and passively danceable music for the living room. Right from the opening moments of the pulsing, string-soaked “Sunspell” or the taut bass lines and fizzy synths on the supple “Nav” you can really hear his influence on Wiesenfeld’s compositions with overtones of Tejada’s ultra-smooth “The Matrix of Us” coming through in the final mix.

There’s never a dull moment on Abysma, and casting it as “passive listening” does it a bit of a disservice, in fairness. It’s a magical work, and a perfect soundtrack to all those hours spent at home during the transition from frosty spring into the glowing summer months.

Let’s get some hair!

Abysma is available on Ghostly International.

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